Will Mitchell’s school was the smallest in attendance at Wednesday’s Tri-County recruiting fair but Lewisville’s football coach certainly had the biggest TV in the room.
Flashing across the TV screen -- more easily measured in feet than inches -- were highlights of two players in particular, seniors Jaylen McFadden and Johnny Courtney, two high school football standouts that embody what Wednesday’s recruiting fair was all about. Neither McFadden nor Courtney are tall enough for most Division I coaches’ liking, but both are skilled, tenacious players that deserve college football opportunities.
The recruiting process is easy for four-star recruits. But what about the other kids that aren’t as obvious prospects, who don’t stand out on a roster? Their recruiting processes usually require more effort, which is why Wednesday’s college recruiting fair was so important.
Chester coach Victor Floyd cooked up the idea, one he modeled after a fair he attended in Georgia’s Cobb County, where 140 colleges attended. Wednesday’s event had around 50 colleges and universities show up, but Floyd knows he can get closer to 100 next year. Still, the first edition felt like a success.
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“That’s 50 schools that your kids have been exposed to in one day,” Floyd said. “You’re not gonna get 50 schools to come through your school in a whole semester, so it’s great for the kids.”
Floyd and his staff organized the event, which cost high schools $100 for a table, a price tag that helped pay for use of a large room at the Gateway Conference Center and also paid for lunch and the postcards explaining the event that were mailed to 400 colleges. Chester, Clover, Indian Land, Lewisville, Lancaster and Rock Hill High were in attendance, while Irmo, Fairfield Central, Spartanburg, Andrew Jackson, Buford and several schools from North Carolina also had tables at the fair.
The thinking was simple: make the college football recruiting process easier on both high school and college coaches.
The high school coaches posted up around the room with various-sized TVs playing highlights and information packets about their players fanned out on the tables. They welcomed twice as many college football coaches, who came from junior colleges out in Kansas, small universities in Virginia and Wisconsin, Western Carolina and The Citadel, and even Syracuse.
“Usually when (the recruiters) come down it takes three or four days to get the area done,” said Indian Land coach Horatio Blades. “But with all these coaches here, all these schools here, it only takes one or two days.”
One visiting assistant coach was already pretty familiar with the area. Former Northwestern Trojan star Jeff Burris, who coaches defensive backs at Northern Iowa, attended the fair and raved about it afterward. If the goal was to make recruiting the York, Chester and Lancaster counties area easier, Wednesday’s fair succeeded in his opinion.
“I can’t put it in words,” Burris said, smiling. “Trust me, to be able to get schools that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to get, it allows a lot of opportunity for a one-stop shop, to be able to meet a lot of coaches.”
Mitchell, a former college football assistant at Charleston Southern, pointed out that South Carolina has very few Division II football programs and no Division III programs. The state has loads of athletes that could play at that level but it’s difficult for smaller colleges, many of which are located in the Midwest, to recruit the Carolinas because of limited budgets.
“It’s really a way of meeting the colleges half way,” Mitchell said. “They can justify a plane ticket to Charlotte and rent a car and drive 30 minutes and see 25, 30 high schools in two hours and come back with all the tape, transcripts, everything you need.”
Floyd’s fair will undoubtedly grow in the future, but it may have already produced its first recruiting success story.
Numerous schools were interested in McFadden and Courtney. But it was one of their teammates that might have benefited the most.
Mitchell was showing clips of one of his seniors, Kamari Davis, who started at cornerback for the Lions, to a coach from a Division III school. Mitchell would have used Davis at running back but he had Quentin Sanders, a sure-fire FBS prospect with offers from Marshall and South Carolina State, already in that position. The Division III coach saw film of Davis and loved him as a ball-carrier. The coach told Mitchell: “we’ll take him.”
It’s unclear how that situation will turn out, but the most crucial thing happened for Kamari Davis because of the fair: exposure.